The Value of a Military Enlistment
Doing an enlistment in the US military has its perks, ignoring the post enlistment benefits (which are lifelong and deserve a post of their own), I would like to review the entitlements a fresh active duty qualifies for.
So Let me give you some perspective, I got out of the military in 2013 and went to school got an Associates, then a Bachelors in Computer Science and then finally landed a Computer Engineering job in 2017 making 49k. Understand that I took the job because I felt a sense of duty working for the Army and it is solid work experience, the pay is below average. I recently decided to look where I want to be in the next 5 years.
Before I even begin, understand that I studied accounting for 5 years and did 3.5 years of Finance/Disbursing/Contracting in the USMC so I have a fair amount of knowledge in this area.
I barely remembered exactly how much I made in the USMC before I got out as I wasn’t tracking money as much since the military paid for everything, I just made sure I saved more than I spent. (I was dealing with accounts and salaries on a daily basis so after work I didn’t want to talk anything about numbers)
Anyways, I went to the calculator at: http://militarypay.defense.gov/Calculators/RMC-Calculator/ and plugged in A CPL over 3 years, I got out early to go to school remember.
Guess freaking what? I MAKE Less in 2017 than I did in 2013. (With a 4 year degree.) See below:
2013 in the military $49,339.34 compared to………. 2017 in the Federal government $48,795.
But it doesn’t feel like the same, you know why? because of all the entitlements the military gave me.
I have been tracking my spending and have discovered that a lot of money goes into Rent, Car, Renters Insurance, Life Insurance, Medical, Dental, Vision. Total expenses, $1980.00!
So understand that I am already kicking myself in the ass for going backwards in pay but I have a hopeful out look. Lets look at the next 5 years comparing if I stayed active duty vice current career path.
I got my numbers from the same calculator and my future numbers from my proposed promotion schedule as per the hiring authorities email below:
So Lets Compare:
The colors correspond to the job,
Red if I stayed in the military,
Green if I stay with the Federal Government,
Yellow if I commissioned as an Military Officer,
Pink if If i Commission but I get married and draw BAH w/Dependents (zip 11419) from NYC,
Blue if i become a software engineer,
and the last 3 correspond to my options right now that I have been considering.
Take note I was conservative for a lot of the jobs like the military, you may be promoted faster and get a higher salary faster as well as get married somehow and draw BAH w/Dependents sooner. a Software Engineer can make a lot more than 70k, should be like 70k - 100k but Company and location play a big factor into it, so I left it at the low end with consistent increases. After 4 years a federal Government employee can get a small bump a few thousand to go from 78k to 80k to 82k to 84k every year assuming you don’t change jobs for a promotion. Current path is if i go back to SE after 2 years of Federal Work. Alternate path is going back into the military as an officer and back to the military is the same but just married both after 2 years of Federal Work.
So look at the numbers, I can’t go back and change my decision to get out of the Marine Corps but looking forward into options I have, an married Officer will make more in 5 years than every other choice available.
In addition, what that list isn’t showing is the fact that those expenses I listed above increase as the years go on and rent is a constant whereby reducing total disposable income.
A military person doesn’t have to buy into everyone of these things because they are compensated by default.
The chart at the Official GOArmy website seemed like fluff and Lies when I saw it at first, but after going over it and further doing research, it is actually quite right.
The Army offers generous military pay and benefits. Military compensation averages $99,000 for active duty members…www.goarmy.com
See chart below:
Lets look at housing, while the Army Job adds housing to salary it doesn’t take into consideration that if you own the house or not, you could buy an house and keep getting paid that housing allowance. In the civilian job you would have to pay that so in actuality you make significantly less.
My food budget currently is at $4,800, a yearly entitlement of $3,000 for paying for food would help offset that cost greatly, they aren’t even counting the fact that you can pay a significant discount to eat at the on base cafeteria. If you are on an Air Force Base, you could be eating some 3 star meals.
Tax Advantage, this is something NO ONE, NO ONE, NO ONE talks about. A $6,606 tax break significantly decreases your base salary sometimes putting you into a lower income bracket so you get taxed less.
But that is not all, many if not all of your entitlements other than base pay and COLA is you know, NOT TAXABLE!!!!!!! So you could be getting paid $71, 278 but only be taxed on $56,894.
See the militarypay website for a better example:
Military Pay and Benefits Website sponsored by the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readinessmilitarypay.defense.gov
Healthcare is something that everyone bitches about but when you have it in the service, it is invaluable.
You cannot put a price on free healthcare, you hurt yourself, you get treated, you break something you get fixed, you can’t see you get glasses, need mouth work, it gets done, hell even plastic surgery is authorized.
While you are in it is amazing for getting things done, when you are out, not so much. But lets talk about why healthcare is valuable. While in the military your healthcare is free and unlimited with UNLIMITED SICK TIME (permitted by medial) as long as you don’t have any serious issues, you can pass a PT test and perform your job, you are good to go.
As a civilian you have to buy into a medical plan, you have to pay every month into a certain plan and then when you see a doctor, you have to pay the terms for what the doctor did with you. In addition the pharmacy pills cost money too, deductibles only cover so much. All of these medical fees add up, it is ONE IF NOT THE LEADING CAUSE OF BANKRUPCY IN AMERICA, fact check me if you don’t believe me.
A Harvard study published in 2005 found that about half of those who filed for bankruptcy said health care expenses…www.factcheck.org
In case you are wondering what happens to your family, well you pay into Tricare or you can still buy into the the same plans civilians get some at discount, its not like they restrict you but understand that the value to you as the service man is unlimited.
Post separation medical issues. No one should leave active duty injured but unfortunately many do, the VA covers you for life for injuries caused on active duty both physical and mental and this is invaluable.
Please ignore the issues regarding bad publicity with processing with the VA as their ultimate intentions and goals are to help you. Speaking as someone who has used the VA, they do take a while but they do employ skilled workers and have leading technology hospitals.
Anyways It is getting late and I have work early in the morning, I will edit this to include a better summary with all the benefits you get for a Military enlistment, until then, consider the numbers I have presented, the military is a damn good option.
If you have any questions or concerns, please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Until next time, good luck and Semper Fi,
- Barindra Narinesingh